I rediscovered Waldorf a few months ago, when I was looking for a way to infuse our days with purpose. I was reminded of its simple focus on nature and home and rhythm. I was hooked. I went to my library and checked out Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne along with Amanda Blake Soule’s Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons. I dove right into Simplicity Parenting and was inspired to simplify and organize my home. I went through my house room by room and purged what we don’t use and found a place for everything. I redecorated and redesigned my dining room which actually is more than just a place to eat. Because our house is small, we use our dining room as a home office and a space for our children to craft and play. Now it functions better in all its uses. I wrote about simplifying my son’s room and toys here and here.
Rhythm of Family inspired me to refocus on the rhythm of nature around me. I began my mission to relax, stop trying so hard to create a rhythm for my family and to listen to the rhythms around me and in spite of me. This is not always an easy task for a planner like me, but I’m trying. Amanda Soule’s book is beautiful and filled with seasonal crafts and projects organized by month. I hope to purchase this book and open it each month as a meditation on living in the present. I also want to have the projects to refer to as my children grow.
When I had completed these books, I was in deep. I was finding peace and rhythm in my life and I wanted more! So I ordered Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our Children from Birth to Seven by Barbara J Patterson. I read Heaven on Earth First and began to feel stress. How was I going to replace all of my children’s plastic toys with wooden ones? How could I redesign my backyard to have hills and mud and bush houses? How could I possibly convince my husband to allow and indoor sandbox or the children’s toys to take over more of our family room? And did I really want to? It didn’t take me long to answer the last question with a resounding, “NO!” And I quickly realized that the answer to the other questions was, “I don’t have too.” Once I let go of my idea of perfection, I began searching for ways to add Waldorf ways into the life that my family already lives. So we began lighting a candle at dinner. My son began setting the table and clearing the table. I began filling the sink with water and allowing my son to “wash” the dirty dishes after lunch. I set aside a time each day for outside play. My husband and I began trying to get out one evening a week for a nature walk with the kids. I got my son an apron 🙂
Then I began Beyond the Rainbow Bridge. I loved the beginning and felt so happy and excited about continuing my journey with Waldorf. Then I got to the parts where Patterson begins describing child development from a religious/spiritual perspective. As an educator, I fancy myself a scientist or sorts. I trust scientific studies and research. I get a little squeamish when I start reading prescriptions for how children should learn without the research to back it up. I also disagree that all children learn in the same ways. To suggest that all preschoolers see dolls as images of themselves and enjoy caring for them is to ignore or condemn children who don’t. After 5 years teaching preschool, I happen to know that some children don’t like dolls. These theories that aren’t backed up by research reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with an acquaintance who teaches at a Waldorf school. She was telling me (after my son was born through C-section) that at her school children who are born surgically are given squeeze therapy where they crawl through narrow tunnels and are placed under weighted blankets. The theory is that they have an insecure relationship with the space around them because they did not experience the squeezing of the birth canal. I was shocked! And offended to say the least. As with most things, people pollute them with their judgments.
I worry about locking our children into the Waldorf ideal that we hold so dear in our hearts and minds as parents. I worry that we ignore our children as unique individuals when we adhere to strictly to an image of learning. I hope to bring those aspects that make sense for my family into our family rhythms, and let go of my images of a perfect Waldorf life. My life is already perfect with all of it’s imperfections.
Happy Tuesday everyone!